The True Definition of Poverty
I have always felt a calling towards service work ever since I was little and wanted to help everyone (dogs included) that I met. This calling was what initially attracted me to this trip. I assumed we would be traveling to Guatemala to do service work and help those in need. When I found out that this was not necessarily the purpose, I struggled to understand and explain to others why we were going. I became frustrated with the thought that we were investing quite the sum of money to go see a culture in need of that exact thing. I knew that this trip would be life changing, although I did not know to what extent the transformation would reach. When we first arrived on the clinic grounds in Santo Tomas, my narrow perspective began to broaden with the stories of the incredible women who work there. Sheila, Mary, and Anna showed me the real answers to poverty. Simply giving money directly to these people in need only relieves the pain of poverty until the donation runs out. In some cases, it even acts as a catalyst for the destruction of one’s dignity and empowerment. I realized this when we spent a morning digging a canal in Clinica Maxena’s garden. Sheila explained to us that showing the people how to supply their own means of food and work could allow them to provide for themselves, which in return results in self-respect and life satisfaction. The Guatemalan and Mayan people have an undeniable pride in their work. So taking this away from them by merely handing them money instead of supporting their abilities cripples their exceptional spirits and their futures.
“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time, but if you have come because your liberation is bound with mine let us work together”
Working in harmony with those in need encourages their efforts by creating a common goal and ultimately a connection for all of humanity: to enhance the quality and equality of life for all.
What I have also realized is that a great deal of prejudice also lied in that fact I assumed we would be the doing the majority of life improvement. To my great surprise, this could not be more on the contrary. The Guatemalan people have a bountiful, inspirational, and unfathomable faith that is incredibly contagious to those who witness it. Although they struggle to meet their basic needs, they will offer everything they have to the Lord and their guests or brothers and sisters in Christ. I was brought to tears many times by how gracious they were to us. I thought and continue to think, if only I could communicate that their faith and friendship was enough to satisfy what they have shown truly matters- the soul. These people may be poor in money and possessions, but their tremendous richness in spirit, generosity, faith, and love should be what us “privileged” admire and seek. These beautiful people display the true definition of poverty as being devoid of the Lord.
Ella Marie Goodwyn